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Laura slammed into southern Louisiana early Thursday as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing an intensity not seen in the region for more than a decade.

The storm weakened to a Category 2 hurricane then later to a tropical storm, with sustained winds of about 65 mph, as it moved north toward Arkansas, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As Laura downgraded to a tropical depression it was expected to pour an additional 4 to 8 inches of rain across Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, potentially leading to flash flooding.

The storm ripped through Lake Charles, La., a city of about 78,000, leaving behind destroyed buildings and damaged lampposts. An industrial plant that makes chlorine-based products near the city caught fire, sending smoke throughout the area and forcing officials to issue a shelter-in-place order.


LAKE CHARLES, LA - AUGUST 27: Florine Richard, 85, surveys the damage to her home after Hurricane Laura made landfall along the Texas-Louisiana border in Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 27, 2020. (Photo by Callaghan O?Hare for The Washington Post) (Callaghan O'Hare/For The Washington Post)

Leading up to landfall, the NHC warned of “unsurvivable” storm surge, with “large and destructive” waves that could inundate coastal areas under about 15 to 20 feet of water, the greatest rise of water in the Gulf of Mexico since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

At Laura’s peak strength, the storm packed 150 mph winds when it crossed the coast, leading to widespread power outages. After Laura made landfall, more than 700,000 people were without power in Louisiana and Texas on Thursday.

The storm prompted Texas, Louisiana and parts of Mississippi to issue storm surge warnings along their southern coasts.

The surge threat forced a mandatory evacuation for Lake Charles, La. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Wednesday he activated the entire Louisiana National Guard to help with hurricane response.

Hurricane Laura is tied for the most rapid intensification for a storm within the gulf, matching the strengthening speed of Hurricane Karl in 2010. It increased from a 75 mph Category 1 storm to a 140 mph Category 4 hurricane within 24 hours the day before landfall, Philip Klotzbach, an atmospheric scientist and hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, told The Post.

Unusually warm water in the gulf, probably tied to global warming, led to the storm’s quick evolution, climate scientists say.

“Rapid intensification events are more likely because of climate change,” Jim Kossin, a hurricane researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Wisconsin, told The Post.

Infrared water vapor

satellite imagery

Infrared water vapor satellite imagery

Infrared water vapor satellite imagery

Infrared water vapor satellite imagery

UNITED STATES

Atlantic

Ocean

New Orleans

Houston

Miami

MEX.

Gulf of

Mexico

500 MILES

UNITED STATES

Atlantic

Ocean

Houston

New Orleans

MEXICO

Gulf of

Mexico

CUBA

500 MILES

UNITED STATES

Miss.

Ga.

Ala.

Tex.

La.

Atlantic

Ocean

Houston

New Orleans

Fla.

MEXICO

Gulf of

Mexico

CUBA

500 MILES

UNITED STATES

Miss.

Ga.

Ala.

Tex.

La.

Atlantic

Ocean

Houston

New Orleans

Fla.

MEXICO

Gulf of

Mexico

CUBA

500 MILES

Source: GOES-16 satellite imagery from NOAA

Source: GOES-16 satellite imagery from NOAA

Source: GOES-16 satellite imagery from NOAA

Source: GOES-16 satellite imagery from NOAA

Laura and Marco were exceptional storms, the earliest L and M systems in the Atlantic on record, in a season that has already featured the earliest C, E, F, G, H, I, J and K tropical storms and hurricanes.